Egypt’s Pivot Towards Sub-Saharan Africa And Strengthening Economic Ties

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes Africa | Limo Taboi
Panorama of Cairo
Cairo, Egypt (Source: Getty Images)

A notable shift seems to be taking place in Egypt’s economic strategy in a new era of collaboration with several regions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). And the country’s banks such as CIB (Commercial International Bank) are playing a part in this transformative journey.

“Kenya made sense. East Africa is close to Egypt, the language is similar, and Kenya is the gateway.  The Kenyan market is one of the most advanced digitally and digital is the perfect way to, with a controlled investment, grow a large footprint quickly,” says the bank’s Managing Director Hussein Majid Abaza.

In April 2020, CIB initially acquired a 51% stake in Kenya’s Mayfair Bank, subsequently completing the buyout in 2023 and rebranding it as CIB Kenya.

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As Egypt remains resilient amid political unrest, security concerns, and fluctuating tourism numbers, CIB has maintained its annual growth.

The introduction of CIB Kenya could herald an era in which Egypt is seeking to foster trade partnerships. The bank’s niche lies in facilitating exports and it will seek to grow business links between the two countries such as with tea, where Egypt is the second-largest market for Kenyan tea exports.

Egypt’s commitment to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is also a pivotal move that aligns with the broader vision of a unified African market. After ratifying the AfCFTA protocol in 2019, Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s leadership, chaired the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) from November 2021 to June 2023.

Trade liberalization initiatives and investment trade missions have underscored Egypt’s commitment to opening new markets on the continent. The country’s trade dynamics seem to show its resilience and adaptability, with the country emerging as a leading exporter to COMESA countries in 2022, reaching $3.4 billion.

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“The continent is the right place to be; it is where growth is, and where growing populations are,” says Abaza.

CIB’s strategic foray into Kenya serves as a microcosm of Egypt’s larger ambitions for Africa. By leveraging its financial expertise towards new cross-border acquisitions, Egypt seems to be not only strengthening its economic ties with East Africa but also fostering innovation through the exchange of fintech ideas and talent through extensive banking analyst training programs in East Africa.

While Egypt’s influence within COMESA is expanding, these figures also underscore the vast potential for further development. In comparison to the global trade landscape, with the value of Egypt’s exports sitting at $51.6 billion in 2022, there is still considerable ground to cover in integrating SSA into Egypt’s global trade chain.

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